Critique on the Critique for oBike

I enjoyed the presentation on oBike last night as it gave me a quick overview of quite a few aspects on the popular bike-sharing application. I learnt that the startup has recently raised $45M for Series B financing, which is one of the largest rounds in Southeast Asia. It is also expanding to countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

Here are three of the most important points that I picked out from the presentation!

Ugly map UX

Since the main screen of the oBike app is 100% occupied by the map view and is probably something that oBike users interact with more than 90% of the time, it should really be perfect in terms of both UI and UX. However, through some screenshots, I quickly understood why the presenting team felt that it was far from perfect.

On first load of the map view, almost half the screen is blocked out by a floating modal about a recent ride-to-win event, which might not be what a user expects to see when he just wants to look for an oBike nearby to get to his destination on time.

Another relevant point brought up was how the map view gets really cluttered when there are too many oBikes nearby. A single screenshot of Tampines showed how the whole map view can be covered by a sea of oBike icons, making it tough to even figure out your own location.

The presenting group even went as far as showing how much better the map view can look with all the noise cancelled out. Even clears up more space for a bigger unlock button.

Suggestion for better onboarding

Looking at the volume of bicycles that oBike has littered around Singapore and other countries all over the world, I imagine that they have quite a large and diverse target audience with different levels of experience with mobile applications. Hence, I feel that the presenting group’s point of having a better onboarding process for users is extremely relevant.

The group shared some screenshots in their presentation about some simple ways to improve onboarding – placard style instructions (oBike has a basic version of this already) and dimming out the whole screen and throwing spotlights on buttons they should be interacting with to perform specific actions.

Seeing that oBike has competitors like moBike and OFO entering the market, their focus should really be investing in their users’ experience with the mobile application. This way, money spent on acquiring users through referrals or promotions will not be wasted by having users scared away by confusing UI/UX.

Offering bicycle lockers

As the presentation was quite heavily focused on UI and UX elements, the last point on expanding their business model to renting out bicycle lockers explored another area oBike can work on and was significant to me.

When faced with clones of yourselves competing in the same market, it is sometimes important for a product owner to start thinking about any complementary products or services they can offer. This allows the company to differentiate itself and more importantly attract more users into its ecosystem.

Although having a locker system for baggage deposit will probably only benefit users that make round trips on oBikes, the presenting group also proposed for those locker to act as a vending machine for safety equipment like helmets that will ensure that they have a smooth and safe trip. Although these are not fully-baked suggestions, I feel that it is a new direction that oBike might be able to explore from a business standpoint.

 

Here are My Original Thoughts about oBike:

I was actually fine with the onboarding, but am not sure about other users who might not have had much experience with map-based mobile applications. After going through the short series of instructions introducing oBike, I was greeted with the notorious map view containing advertisements about events and discounts available.

Moving on to check out what buttons were available from the map view, I was quite confused by what the four buttons on both sides of the unlock button were supposed to do. They were a little too small and got hidden by the many oBike map pins that were present around them, since they looked paler than the map pins.

Another UX issue for me which was also mentioned during the presentation was that I had to move a pin of fixed location on the screen to indicate my starting point. Although it was already fixed on my location at the start, I remained confused for quite a while as I was not sure if it should be used to mark the start or the end of my journey.

One last thing that I felt prevented me from taking my first oBike ride was the fact that I had to throw in a deposit. This deterred me as I have never tried out oBike and was not sure if the experience was worth the money and if I will continue using it. I understand that they are trying to get new users to buy in into their ecosystem, but a free (or cheaper) trial for a brand new user surely wouldn’t hurt new user retention numbers?

I think the application critique has allowed me to think more about other aspects of an application (not just UI/UX and dev) like business models, viability in different markets and user retention. I look forward to more critique on my critique of the critique on oBike. f(f(f(x))).

 

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Diversity Works

Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to work with two teams of talented people that I only got to know at the start of each assignment. We come from different backgrounds (countries, disciplines, year of study, interests), and naturally have varying opinions about many things. From micro issues like where a vote button should be placed to macro ones like the grand purpose of an application, I enjoyed the different perspectives that everyone had to offer.

As one of my groupmates pointed out in our random discussions, working with tech for a prolonged period of time will sometimes land us in a tech bubble. Within this bubble are people with similar experiences and beliefs about tech, and if we are not aware of it, we slowly lose touch with other parts of society. Excluding ourselves from human elements like basic UI/UX, or even just communicating ideas to people outside of the bubble.

Personally, I think this is an issue that exists for anyone working exclusively in an area for an extended period of time, and the key might just be to pop our heads out of the bubble once in a while to learn from awesome people from other fields. It might feel weird at the start seeing how different the world outside is, but in my opinion, that’s how great ideas/products are created, when people see things others inside the bubble don’t.

Get out of the bubble, embrace diversity 🙂

Project management insights

It sure has been hectic since the module started, CS3216 has lived up to it’s reputation of being a time sink. However, amidst the crazy schedule of deadlines, I feel a stronger sense of purpose and have definitely picked up a couple of lessons on the way to mid submission deadline of Assignment 1. Here’s two.

1. Costs and benefits of new tech

Working on the front end with my teammate Wei Wen, we unanimously chose to use Vue.js as we have heard quite a bit about it and he had just been to a meetup sharing about the benefits of using it as opposed to React. It has been a joy developing with it, especially when I compare it to Backbone.js, an older framework I used in a previous stint.

However, there were also costs associated with picking up something I was not fully familiar with, and using it for a project with insanely tight deadlines. This resulted in longer timelines for certain tasks that I usually breeze through, which I did not factor in when planning my schedule for the week. Naturally, that led to sacrifices being made… PC1222 Lab Submission was the first casualty.

Thinking of it from a more macro view, this is probably a legit concern for project managers in companies that are looking towards new tech too. Other than the usual challenge of recruiting people who are familiar new tech, they also have to grapple with the fact that timelines become somewhat unpredictable when transitioning to new stacks. Fortunately, these are only decisions that they probably have to make only a couple of times during their whole career.

2. Project management tool, with and without

During this week’s class, Colin invited Chris, an alumni of CS3216, to talk about project management. Out of the many tips he gave, our group decided to take his advice of picking up Trello (sorry Colin lol) for managing and documenting the tasks we have to accomplish personally and as a group.

Reflecting back at the week before where we held discussions about task allocation without assigning them to specific people through Trello/Asana, I feel that these tools do certainly improve project visibility and are well worth the minuscule effort of documenting individual and team progress. Another plus point is, you can feel a better sense of satisfaction whenever you tick on something you achieved and watching that progress bar fill up.

 

 

Now that Assignment 2 has also started, it’s time to put on the hat of a critic and learn from the goods and bads of other creators.

 

 

 

Reach for the skies

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

As part of the NUS module CS3216: Software Product Engineering for Digital Markets, students are encouraged to blog about what they wish to learn through the module, so here I am, writing a blog post, which is something I have not done in more than ten years. There are many things I want to learn and need to improve on but here are three goals that I wish to set for myself in the upcoming semester.

To tap on the power of self-fulfilling prophecies, I have titled them post-mortem style, so as to make my beliefs shape my actions. The paragraphs that follow each goal act as elaboration on what they mean. Hopefully, by the time I complete CS3216, I will be able to complete the circle by giving actual details on how I achieved these goals.

1. How I became thick-skinned

Becoming thick-skinned will mean that I am more likely to continue pursuing what I believe in, while overcoming obstacles such as external judgement or societal pressures. It also entails not being afraid to put myself out there in presentations or pitches and welcome constructive criticism openly.  This will make me a better presenter, negotiator and team member.

2. How I learnt the art of listening, then expressing

Reflecting from my experience of working in teams at school or work, the most effective team members were the ones who were actively listening and empathising with others, as they were able to build upon the ongoing discussion. Being able to truly understand what others are sharing, and at the same time provide relevant input on their ideas, is how I want to act in any team I am part of.

3. How I improved on time management

Having a keen sense of curiosity, I have always wanted to learn about many things in life, sometimes forgetting about the reality of time constraints. Learning to pick up commitments wisely and prioritising tasks correctly will allow me to truly optimise my life.

A new semester, a new start.

Looking forward to meeting everyone in CS3216!